How the Thatcher illusion reveals evolutionary differences in the face processing of primates

Kimberly B. Weldon, Jessica Taubert, Carolynn L. Smith, Lisa A. Parr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Face recognition in humans is a complex cognitive skill that requires sensitivity to unique configurations of eyes, mouth, and other facial features. The Thatcher illusion has been used to demonstrate the importance of orientation when processing configural information within faces. Transforming an upright face so that the eyes and mouth are inverted renders the face grotesque; however, when this "Thatcherized" face is inverted, the effect disappears. Due to the use of primate models in social cognition research, it is important to determine the extent to which specialized cognitive functions like face processing occur across species. To date, the Thatcher illusion has been explored in only a few species with mixed results. Here, we used computerized tasks to examine whether nonhuman primates perceive the Thatcher illusion. Chimpanzees and rhesus monkeys were required to discriminate between Thatcherized and unaltered faces presented upright and inverted. Our results confirm that chimpanzees perceived the Thatcher illusion, but rhesus monkeys did not, suggesting species differences in the importance of configural information in face processing. Three further experiments were conducted to understand why our results differed from previously published accounts of the Thatcher illusion in rhesus monkeys.

LanguageEnglish
Pages691-700
Number of pages10
JournalAnimal Cognition
Volume16
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013

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primate
Primates
Macaca mulatta
information processing
cognition
Pan troglodytes
Cognition
Mouth
mouth
eyes
Automatic Data Processing
experiment
interspecific variation
animal models
Research
effect

Cite this

Weldon, Kimberly B. ; Taubert, Jessica ; Smith, Carolynn L. ; Parr, Lisa A. / How the Thatcher illusion reveals evolutionary differences in the face processing of primates. In: Animal Cognition. 2013 ; Vol. 16, No. 5. pp. 691-700.
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How the Thatcher illusion reveals evolutionary differences in the face processing of primates. / Weldon, Kimberly B.; Taubert, Jessica; Smith, Carolynn L.; Parr, Lisa A.

In: Animal Cognition, Vol. 16, No. 5, 09.2013, p. 691-700.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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